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Gayle Martin

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How to Create Effective Promotional Materials for Your Book
by Gayle Martin   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Saturday, November 20, 2010
Posted: Tuesday, March 09, 2010

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Not sure what kind of hand-outs to use at your next book fair or book signing? Here are some affordable and effective ideas from a graphic designer turned author.

Whenever I go to book events, such as a book fair, I like to pick up other author’s marketing materials.  Oftentimes people who attend these events won't necessarily buy your book that day. Instead they’ll collect promotional materials to take with them so they can decide later on which books they would like to order. These little gems can go a log way to help sell your book so a lot of thought should go into them.  Some authors have very effective marketing materials, while others do not.


For example, at a recent book festival I attended I noticed one author handing out illustrations of characters from her book. They were nicely drawn, but there was no other information. Not the title of her book, her name, or anything about who the character was. It was just a cute little drawing of a clown printed out on a piece of computer photo paper, which gave it a home made look. I'm sure when people got home and went though all the materials they gathered that day they probably looked at it and wondered, "What the heck is this?" 


Another author at the same event was handing out a postcard. One the front was a color illustration, the name of his book series, and a list of all the titles in the series. On the back was his website and a list of booksellers carrying his books.  So which author do you think got the most sales after the event?  I’m betting it was the one with the postcard. 


We are in a highly competitive industry so it’s crucial that our promotional materials look as polished and as professional as possible so we can stand out from our competition.  This can, however, be challenge to new authors who are unsure of what kind of promotional items they may need, or to those with limited budgets, so let’s start with the basics.


Every author should, at the very least, have a business card. You never know where and when you’re going to run into a prospective reader, and a business card is the easiest marketing piece to carry with you.  If you’re on a tight budget and you can only afford one promotional item, make it a good business card.  Think of your business card as a little miniature billboard.  If at all possible it should include your book cover.  To create a really simple layout place your book cover on one side and your contact information on the other.  Be sure to include your name, a title, such as “author of,” your website, your phone number and an e-mail address.  If you work out of your home, and many authors do, consider renting a post office box or a private mailbox, or not including your address on your business card.  I would recommend using an easy-to-read serif font, such as Garamond or Times New Roman, and use at least a 10-point font size.  Few things are more irritating to me then someone using a 6 or a 7-point size font for their contact information and it’s so small that even when I’m wearing my glasses I’m unable to read it.  If your budget will allow it I would also suggest using the back of the business card to list where your book is available, such as on Amazon or   


Regardless of how small your budget you can have business cards printed.  If you’re really, really broke, or if you're unsure about your design and layout and you’re not quite ready to commit, try printing them off your printer with business card paper that you can purchase at any office supply store.  While I would never recommend this as a permanent solution it will serve in a pinch and it’s certainly better than not having a business card at all.  Some printing companies, such as Printing for Less, have on-line templates that even the most artistically challenged can use to create professional looking cards.  Printing for Less also offers highly competitive pricing to make their services more affordable to those with very limited funds.


If your budget will allow I would also recommend having a bookmark.  Bookmarks are the perfect item to hand out at your book signings or at a book fair.  Again you can use your book cover, or, if you write fiction, that illustration of your character would be the perfect thing to use on a bookmark.  And since you have more space to work with you can add more information, such as the name of your publisher or even a brief review.  If you have the budget I would highly recommend that you use both sides of your bookmark.  I write fiction, so on the front of my bookmark is the cover illustration from one of my titles, a brief description of my series, my publisher, and my website.  On the back of I list all the titles in my series, including the ISBN numbers, the awards my books have won, the on-line sellers where they can be purchased, and a short excerpt from a review.  My bookmark is a miniature brochure that gives a reader, or a book dealer, all the information that they need.  


Postcards are another effective marketing tool that authors can use.  If you are planning any kind of a direct mail campaign postcards are both economical and effective since the mailing costs for a postcard is usually less than for bulk mail, and the person receiving your postcard is more likely to look at it.  Your postcard should include your book cover, ISBN number, a description, a review, your publisher, the book distributor, and your website. 


One of my art professors back in college used to say "If you don't respect your art then your art won't respect you."  I think this is especially true for authors who want to have marketing materials that shine and help increase their book sales.   It's an investment that can really pay off.


Gayle Martin is a former graphic designer and is the author of the award-winning Luke and Jenny series of historical novels for young readers. 








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Reviewed by Robert Yani 3/12/2010
I'm going to try the business cards and book marks
Thank you
Rob Yani
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